A new compound to treat Alzheimer's

A researcher at Purdue University laboratory is working on a compound that he says could become the first treatment available for Alzheimer's. Arun Ghosh says the molecule targets an enzyme called memapsin 2, or beta-secretase, which plays a key role in the formation of beta amyloid plaque that is widely believed to be responsible for the disease. Ghosh used X-ray crystallography to map the structure of an inhibitor he designed that was bound to the enzyme. Ghosh formed a company with Jordan Tang, head of the Protein Studies Research Program at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, which has merged with CoMentis in San Francisco.

"The moment we had the crystal structure, we knew exactly how the inhibitor worked, the interactions of the molecular bonds and what properties were most important," Ghosh said. "This allowed us to quickly build inhibitor molecules and bypass the usual lengthy process of trial and error in molecule design. Within a year we had developed modified inhibitors that were much smaller and more drug-like in character."

"This is the most exciting target today for Alzheimer's disease intervention," said Tang, who holds the J.G. Puterbaugh Chair in Medical Research at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. "These interactions happen at a very early stage in the disease, and if we could block them, we could prevent many of the harmful steps that follow and drastically reduce the impact. In our most recent tests, a single dose of the designed compound reduced the beta-amyloid level by 30 percent."

- check out the release
- here's the report on their work from the Indianapolis Star

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